Body image matters
Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from 13-19 May 2019. The theme this year is Body Image - How we think and feel about our bodies.
We all have feelings about our body, as a whole or certain parts of it. It may be too much this or not enough that. It may be changing in ways we are not ready for. It may be awkward or painful or slow or out of control. If we are lucky, we can accept the body we live in and deal with the aspects we like the least. However, many of us have feelings that range from annoyance to deep shame or hatred. Maybe this body doesn't represent who we feel like inside. At times this feels cruel, even unbearable. Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) and the depression that often accompanies it can have serious consequences on our ability to live life as we would wish to.
Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental health Foundation, writes on their website:
For too many of us, our bodies are sources of shame and distress. From an early age, we are bombarded with images that define what an ‘ideal body’ looks like. Sometimes we have faced stigma or cruelty as friends and family have used how we look as a way to put us down for a cheap laugh. I know I have been guilty of that within my own family.
In therapeutic terms, we have internalised a sense of SHOULD when it comes to our bodies. It is as if we each have our own internal GIF on a loop reinforcing what the ideal looks like. My GIF repeats Daniel Craig strutting toned and chiselled from the sea. It’s no wonder that when I catch a glimpse of my actual reflection, I sigh with a sense of disappointment. And although we know girls and young women are particularly vulnerable to poor body image, this year we will explore body image as an issue that cuts across gender, age, sexuality and ethnicity. Bodyguard star Richard Madden is among the surprising voices to have spoken out recently against the demands they face to look a certain way. Body image is closely linked with mental health All this might not be so serious if it didn’t have profound implications for our mental and physical health. The opposite also seems true: the more comfortable you are with your body, the greater your overall wellbeing, and the less likely you are to engage in destructive behaviours.